Weird History 12 Bizarre Pirate Traditions Most People Don't Know About  

Genevieve Carlton
16.2k votes 5.5k voters 1.5M views 12 items Embed

List Rules Vote up the most surprising pirate tradition.

Pirates have a reputation for being ruthless bloodthirsty killers and they certainly did get creative with the ways they offed people. Pirates also developed some strange habits that made them infamous, like wearing earrings and hiding treasure. Just like the Vikings created odd rituals, pirates used codes to govern their lives on the high sea.

The pirate code was an agreement that marauders made with each other to establish a sort of law among the lawless. It ensured a certain amount of honor, like they could only fight their sailing mates on land. The informal pirate code also dictated pirate attire.

Pirate traditions include myths about a single item that could protect men from drowning, the best reason to wear an eye patch, and the secret behind Blackbeard’s greatest trick. Keep reading to learn more about their bizarre ways of life.

1
1,259 397

Pirate Earrings Served As An Insurance Policy To Finance Their Burials


Pirate Earrings Served As An I... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 12 Bizarre Pirate Traditions Most People Don't Know About
Photo: Howard Pyle/Wikimedia Commons

Pirates spent their lives on the high seas but they didn't want to spend death at the bottom of an ocean (or Davy Jones’s Locker). The infamous piercings that pirates wore in their ears were actually insurance to make sure that they'd be given a proper burial. Whether gold or silver, the precious metal could be melted down and sold to pay for a casket and other funeral necessities even if a pirate's dead body washed ashore.

Some pirates went so far as to engrave the name of their home port on the inside of the earrings so that their bodies could be sent home for a proper burial. 

2
1,227 388

There Was A Secret To Maintaining Blackbeard's Terrifying Facial Hair - Using Hemp Kept It In Frightening Shape


There Was A Secret To Maintain... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 12 Bizarre Pirate Traditions Most People Don't Know About
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons

Born Edward Teach, Blackbeard was arguably the most terrifying pirate in the world and he built his reputation on hemp. In the early eighteenth century, Blackbeard captained the Queen Anne’s Revenge but before capturing that ship or any other he'd weave hemp into his long dark beard and under his captain hat. Once he lit the hemp on fire, smoke billowed out from his face and made his opponents fear for their lives.

In addition to his burning beard, Blackbeard also wore a crimson coat and carried at least two swords, pistols, and knives at all times. 

3
1,299 416

No, Pirates Weren’t All Missing An Eye - The Patches Helped Them With Night Vision


No, Pirates Weren’t All Missin... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 12 Bizarre Pirate Traditions Most People Don't Know About
Photo: Charles Ellms/Wikimedia Commons

Some pirates were definitely missing eyeballs; their ships were dangerous places, after all. But other pirates wore eye patches for different reasons. By wearing an eye patch, the sea buccaneers could always keep one eye adjusted to night vision. Pirates spent a lot of time going from the bright light above deck to the darkness below deck, especially when they were raiding ships or defending their own. If he lifted his patch before going below deck, a pirate could instantly see even if there was only a little light. 

4
1,020 313

No One Ever Wanted To See The Bloody Red Pirate Flag


No One Ever Wanted To See The ... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 12 Bizarre Pirate Traditions Most People Don't Know About
Photo: Willem van de Velde, the Younger/Wikimedia Commons

The Jolly Roger flag that flew from pirate masts was terrifying but the most dreaded sea flag was red. A ship hoisting a red flag warned its enemies that no mercy would be given to a captured ship; everyone on board would be killed immediately.

The red flag was sometimes called the “Bloody Red” and if it replaced a skull and crossbones flag, the pirates under siege might sometimes jump ship.